The Space and Place of Death
April 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
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Archaeologists typically study death from the perspective of mortuary patterns, devising classifications of disposal facilities and their dead inhabitants along parameters such as technique and materials of tomb construction, position and orientation of the deceased, and paleobiology of the interred populations. From this information a society's organization and level of sociopolitical complexity is reconstructed. Less common among archaeologists is attention to the spatiality of death practice, the unifying focus of this volume. Archaeologists are concerned with issues such as the siting of mortuary facilities; the interplay of agency and expressive style in the funerary context as these relate to the physical space and taking place of mortuary custom; and the recognition, cultural reconstruction, and explanation of death landscapes. These perspectives provide a more holistic framework for achieving an ethnographically sensitive archaeology of death. The studies in this volume range widely in areal location, cultural and temporal focus, and theoretical approach. As a collection they suggest the importance of landscape and physical context in understanding mortuary rituals.